Reflections on Writing

Carol A. Hand

Deciding to take Writing 101 was an important decision. Unlike many of the friends I’ve made while blogging, and many of the others who are enrolled in the class, I honestly never thought of myself as a writer. It’s not something I ever aspired to become. I have always been a voracious reader, but I only wrote because it was required in school and in some of my jobs. True, I usually received good grades on the papers I wrote in school, sometimes with glowing praise, but I was more interested in learning concrete skills. Writing was merely one of the tools I needed to be effective as a change agent.

But then I retired from teaching, program development, and policy advocacy. I realized that the programs I had created or the reflections I wrote privately to survive my years in academia might be helpful to others. A few years ago, when an old friend suggested that we start a blog together, I had time on my hands to try. Of course, I didn’t even know what a blog was then. I had heard the term in the technology workshops I took when I was responding to real issues for commuting students. How could I use technology to cut down their travel time and make learning more accessible? But learning the technology and designing online assignments took up my time. I didn’t have time to visit blogs, partly because mention of their content suggested that they, like Wikipedia, were academically suspect.

Crossroads_in_Free_Heath_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1658652

Photo: Crossroads – Wikimedia Commons 

This morning, I felt I needed to take time to sort out my thoughts about writing in different voices. Writing 101 has made me wonder if my observations thus far are accurate for me, and maybe for others as well. The contrasts I see between writing from an academic voice and writing from a creative voice appear to be significant.

When I write an academic paper, grant, or report, I need to begin with a title that helps me keep focused on purpose and structure before I begin. It’s like pushing the “computer sort” button.” Titles like “Rescuing children or homogenizing America?”, or “Tools of the trade for men who care”, remind me to keep focused on what I’m trying to say.

But responding to the word prompt assignment for Writing 101 was actually very hard. I was trying to write something creative so I struggled. I muddled through because I was determined to move forward despite writer’s block. But it was hard and what I wrote felt disorganized. My language didn’t flow easily. When I wrote to an image, something I often do when I blog, the words were unlocked. Poetic titles to structure academic works? Images to inspire works that allow more creative expression? I’m still not sure. But it seems to be a pattern.

I’m still experimenting with the dilemma of which voice to use for stories. I remember how hard I struggled with voice when I shifted from quantitative to qualitative research. Creswell’s (1994) tables helped me sort out what my assumptions and beliefs were about key questions and when to use third person (objective) or first person (personal) language.

creswell 1

creswell 2

creswell 3

Photos: Power Point Slides from Lecture on Research

I’m not sure if these tables will help anyone else but I decided to include them just in case they might. Revisiting them though, doesn’t help me with the decision of which voice will work best in a novel. My blogging friends who are expert writers differ on this question. It means I need to keep experimenting to see what works best for me as I continue the exciting challenges Writing 101 presents.

Work Cited:

John W. Creswell (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
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15 Responses to Reflections on Writing

  1. desilef says:

    Yes, experiment! And while the fiction will most likely be qualitative per the chart, and the content value-laden, remember that your fictional alter ego may express values that conflict with your own while the context may reveal the contradiction. Characters make mistakes! In research, you are asserting theories and conclusions. In fiction, if the protagonist is always right, it’s less engaging. That may be part of why I like it that Mavis started out with print too small for the elders to read. Assumptions that have never been questioned get questioned.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can’t believe you didn’t think of yourself as a writer, you are amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tiny says:

    You are an amazing writer, Carol! I had to smile when I read that you considered blogs to be academically suspect. That’s what I did too for many years, until one day I found myself having to blog at work. I had no choice but to tell everyone what changes my team was contemplating. That was a challenge 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words, Tiny. I’m also very grateful for your comments about blogs! Do you ever have those moments after you click publish when your think to yourself, “Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that”? I did have one of those moments today. It’s a good sign that both of us were willing to put aside preconceived notions to connect with such an incredibly talented group of people from around the world. enjoy this valuable resource and

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tiny says:

        Oh, I had many such moments when I blogged at work. I felt I was going too far out on the limb sometimes. Now that I have my own blog, I have mostly focused it on nature as I am passionate about it, but have a few other types of ponderings here and there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Funny, Tiny. I didn’t realize that the message went out half-written and unedited 🙂 It just suddenly disappeared when I was typing when I hit the wrong key…

          But thank you for responding again. I really do love your blog – your photography, your awe-inspiring knowledge about birds, and your thoughtful insights.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, you sure know how to throw out questions that make us stop and think! 🙂 At first reading, I too was blown away by your comment about not thinking of yourself as a writer, when your excellent writing, with mind and heart together, is what drew me to your blog. First my eyes glazed past the academic charts, then I made myself read them, and discovered a scholarly reason for the aspects of academic writing that caused me lots of pain. But I won’t go there now. 🙂 A visiting writer-in-residence at our university made the eye-opening statement, that in order to write her award-winning fiction, she had to completely distance herself from academic writing. I guess it’s this brain/heart thing all the time, that affects both how we live, and how we write… I think your own conclusion makes most sense!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Such important and thought-provoking insights about writing, Hildegard! Thank you for sharing them here, and for your very kind words. I’d love to hear more about your experiences with academic writing someday 🙂

      Like

  5. Lara/Trace says:

    Two brains – indeed! I write personal thoughts by hand, which seems to help me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think writing in your own voice as a child or teenager is probably the best place to start for someone who is new to writing. I’m reading some excellent fiction by the Italian writer Elena Ferrante and she shows per genius in capturing the petty squabbles between her and her teenage friends. Even though it’s quite detailed, it makes for pretty riveting reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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